Whether you have a long-distance commute or a short one that involves lots of traffic… These are some of the best commuter cars for the money.

Quick notes

  • You can find 2018 gasoline-powered vehicles under $20,000 with upgraded features.

  • Although GM no longer makes Chevy Cruzes, they are still available for sale.

  • Electric cars are becoming less expensive to buy and are significantly cheaper to own over time due to better efficiency

Best cars for long-distance commutes

When it comes to getting into a good commuter car, there are some obvious things to look out for: a spacious cabin, comfortable seats, and upgraded features can drastically improve any commute.

However, deal-breakers for most car buyers are cars with excellent fuel economy at an affordable price.

Listed below are 2018 models under $20,000, have a mileage per gallon (MPG) of 37mpg or higher, and have earned at four-star ratings by Kelley Blue Book (KBB) experts, Edmunds consumers, and safety crash testers.

A bonus, they also have some type of phone-connectivity ability available so drivers may make hands-free calls and play entertainment during long drives.

Honda Civic

The Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is priced at $19,835. Honda Civics are available in three different models, but the sedan is the lowest priced.KBB experts describe the vehicle as “extremely roomy.” Backseat riders have enough leg, arm, and headroom to comfortably sit for long rides.

Features in this vehicle include a technology package called Honda Sensing. The package has adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, road departure mitigation, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning, and collision mitigation braking system.

Looking at gas, this vehicle has 40 MPG highway, 28 MPG city, and 32 MPG combined. KBB experts rated this vehicle 4.7 while consumers on Edmunds gave it 4.6  stars.

Chevy Cruze

This vehicle is slightly cheaper than the Honda Civic sedan model coming in at $17,850. However, GM reportedly discontinued the Chevy Cruze in early 2019. The Detroit-based company announced where it would allocate its resources going forward.

Even though Chevrolet no longer produces the Cruze, you can still buy one, according to GM Authority.

So, while you still can, consider getting this model. It’s quiet, comfortable and has good highway (40 MPG), city (27 MPG) and combined (32 MPG) mileage. The car sports many amenities, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice activation, Apple CarPlay compatibility, teen driver tech, built-in navigation, world-class Bose audio, wireless phone charging, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and forward-collision alert.

KBB experts and consumers on Edmunds gave this model 4.3 stars.

Kia Rio

If wanting something effective and on a tight budget, the Rio is a low-priced, fuel-sipping, compact car that still gets good ratings.

The 2018 Kia Rio comes in three types of “trim levels” including LX, S, and EX. Each of these models comes with a four-cylinder engine and is available as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. The Rio has 4.3 stars by KBB and Edmunds, coming in at $14, 795.

Standard features include a five-inch audio display, and steering wheel-mounted controls. Since the price is pretty low, it isn’t as upgraded. You will have to spend more money on power windows, a larger screen, autonomous emergency braking, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

If amenities aren’t necessary for your commute, and you want a comfortable car for a low cost, this is a great option.

Best electric commuter car if on a budget

As gas prices are rising and forecasted to increase, even more, car shoppers may consider switching to an electric car.


As of 2019, gas costs, an average of almost $4.00 per gallon in California and other states are starting to follow suit. Other states are now raising gas taxes since people are driving more fuel-efficient cars, thus paying fewer gas taxes.

According to USNews, battery production is increasing, and battery technology is advancing quickly. This means electric cars will become less expensive to buy. Electric vehicles have fewer parts that require constant maintenance than traditional cars, so long-term savings can be substantial.

For city drivers, hybrids and electric vehicles are hard to beat due to lower or nonexistent gas costs. When looking at mileage efficiency for electric vehicles (Miles per gallon equivalent or MPGe) A higher MPGe means higher energy efficiency; a lower MPGe means the opposite. MPGe is the car’s range and battery life.

Overall, these cars have higher MSRPs. This vehicle is a little above $20,000 but it can save you money in the long run.

Hyundai Ioniq

There are three Iconiq models to choose from: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric. The cheapest model for this make is the hybrid, priced at $22,200. The model body is a 4-door hatchback. The standard model includes a 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, hill-start assist, a rearview camera, and five-person seating.


There are other available features for a higher cost, such as automatic emergency braking, leather seats, heated seats, lane departure warning, lane keeps assist, navigation system and heated side mirrors.

The Ioniq is mileage efficiency is average for the price at 59 MPGe highway, 57 MPGe city, 58 MPGe combined. Edmunds and KBB gave this vehicle 4.4 stars.

A deeper dive– Related reading from the 101:

Hint… ‘D’ is for December and discounts

Obtaining an older car will require more research than buying a new one. Remember, every dollar counts!